What Happened at Blessing Creek
by Naomi Kritzer
We circled our wagons at night so Reverend Dawson's magic could protect us.
The Reverend said it was the power of prayer, but Papa scoffed at that.
"He's a magician, and a good one," Papa said. "Or we wouldn't've brought him
along in the first place."
My sister Adeline liked to pretend Papa had said something shocking, but I knew
he was right. I could smell the magic on the Reverend. I could hear it humming
when he said the last words of the nightly blessing that kept out trouble --
dragons, wolves, fevers, Indians.
Adeline and I were twins, but not the sort who looked alike. She was the pretty
one, with plump pink cheeks and hair the color of summer butter. My mother said
I was the clever one, but she didn't really believe it. I wasn't pretty, though, so I
suppose she thought it would be a consolation if people thought me clever.
"Papa's right, you know," I told Adeline one night. "I can smell the magic even
now." It smelled like burnt bread, and I could hear it crackle into place beyond our
"Don't talk about your second sight, Hattie," Adeline said. "It's not ladylike. You
know what Mother says."
Mother said that every man wished he'd had a witch for a mother, but no one
wanted one as a wife. Witches were useful to have in the family. Sometimes they
could keep a child from dying of a fever, or banish mice from your grain store.
But that didn't mean anyone wanted to marry one.
"So why would you want a witch as a husband?" I muttered, half to myself.
"He's not a witch. He is a minister of the gospel."
"Hush, girls," Mother said. We were supposed to be going to sleep, even though
the grownups would be talking by the fire for hours yet. We fell silent for a few
"Anyway, that was back east they said no one wanted to marry a witch," I said.
"We're going west. Things could be different. There are dangers here."
"Not so long as we stay close to the Reverend," Adeline said.
"Do you think everyone who comes west wants to live in a town? Maybe I'll meet
a man who wants to strike out on his own."
"No man wants to be protected by his wife. Anyway, do you think you could
really make a good blessing? Just because you can smell the magic doesn't mean
you can do it."
"Girls. I don't want to tell you again."
This time I kept my peace, and after a few minutes I heard Adeline's breathing turn
quiet and steady. I stared up at the stars, still wide awake. Out in the distance,
somewhere in the darkness of the prairie, I heard a long, high-pitched cry, and then
an answering cry, further away. I sat up and looked; my mother was by the fire.
"You're perfectly safe, Hattie," she said.